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  • Street light and shadow magnified the scene.

    Two silhouettes.

    They betrayed their subjects, staging, exposing the deed. One stood over the other.

    The one that was stood held a gun in a trembling hand.

    The one that was not stood was not trembling.

    The shadows narrowed to points on the other side of the road, pinned to human curios, small and vulnerable, animals at the zoo, wearing their concrete cage inside out.

    To get a closer look, Barnabus would have to emerge from the alley. He would be part of it then, part of the zoo, part of the stage, exposed.

    The standing figure looked directly at him. The alley had not hidden him as best as he would have wished.

    “Who’s there?” it said. The voice filled the void, amplified, reverberating, in the hot, wired air. It was the only sound.

    Barnabus did not run. He stepped out in to the light.

    Ronnie stepped forward too, pointing the gun at Barnabus. Barnabus could see his face now. It bore an expression of fear, anger and confusion.

    But mostly fear...

    “It was an accident.”

    “I believe you.”

    “He came at me. They. They were going to kill me. Us.”

    “Us?”

    Ronnie looked around. There was no sign of the man from the club.

    “There was someone else with me. We were... doing something these guys didn’t like. They attacked us. One of them had a gun. I managed to get it off him. I was scared. We were both scared. It was an accident.”

    Barnabus was out of his depth and he knew it. There was nothing he could say, for all his swagger, for all his inflated opinion of himself, that could have helped him out of this. If he was shot right now, if he took the bullet to the heart and was instantly killed, all that would be left behind of him was his love of a thing. A thing called music. And he knew, right then, that it was not enough.

    “I shouldn’t have come out tonight,” Ronnie continued, barely acknowledging Barnabus any longer. “Not like this. This side of me, this side of me it’s a curse.”

    Ronnie dropped the gun and collapsed on the ground. Barnabus could have cried with relief. He turned, about to run, then stopped...

    He’d made too many mistakes. This wasn’t going to be one of them...

    “Listen, you need to run. You need to get out of here.”

    Ronnie said nothing.

    “Listen, it’s ok. There was nothing wrong with what you did. There’s gay dudes kissing and holding hands every day on Canal Street and nobody bats an eyelid. Those guys that attacked you - they were just fucking idiots.”

    Ronnie looked up at him then, his eyes raw, his cheeks bruised with the stains of tears, his lips dry and crusted.

    “But he’s dead.”

    Barnabus forced himself to look. Then wished he hadn’t. The shape of it, the eyes – nothing he’d seen had ever been so.... real. He grasped for something, some part of him that could explain it, and failed. So instead he searched for consolation.

    “Have you ever heard of Landon Pigg?”

    Ronnie gave Barnabus a look that said ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ Nevertheless, Barnabus continued.

    “Landon Pigg, he’s a singer, songwriter type. A little bit on the twee side but his tunes are interesting and a little bit different, you know? Anyway, he’s got this song called ‘Take A Chance’ and I know what you’re thinking, sounds a bit saccharine, a bit cliché. But it’s actually got this lyric in it that might actually be appropriate – ‘I didn't wanna be tied down, but now I see not being tied down ain't the same as being free.’ And I know this doesn’t make much sense to you, but to me I think it says being free requires you to take a risk of not being free, like you being judged because you’re, you know, gay, means you don’t feel at liberty to be the person that you are. So you need to choose your freedoms, and choose your shackles, and right now you’ve done this thing that you didn’t mean to do and you’ve killed a guy and it’s not your fault. And you can choose to go to the police and confess, in which case you might end up going to prison, or you can just wipe off that gun, place it with the body and leave. And personally, I wouldn’t blame you for doing that.”

    Ronnie wiped his eyes and extended his hand. Barnabus took it, and pulled the dejected wreck to his feet.

    “Wasn’t Landon Pigg in that film ‘Whip It’ with Ellen Page?”

    “Aye that’s the dude.”

    “He doesn’t have much acting range does he?”

    “No.”

    Barnabus picked up the gun, gingerly, wiped it off and placed it with the body. Then they left.

    The police came, eventually. They did all their police type stuff, but couldn’t get anything solid to go on, and nothing that could ever connect what happened to Ronnie, or Barnabus.

    It was as if it never happened. Apart from the fact that a man was dead and his friends had done nothing to stop him. And that Barnabus and Ronnie had changed their lives for the better and decided to stop being someone they weren’t, even though that person that they weren’t is what they’d pretended to be all their lives. And they were going to follow their hearts instead.

    Which they did.
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